Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Freehand Figure Drawing for Illustrators by David H. Ross

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Freehand Figure Drawing for Illustrators
by David H. Ross


ISBN-13: 9780385346238
Paperback: 208 pages
Publisher: Watson-Guptill
Released: July 28, 2015

Source: Review copy from the publisher.

Book Description, Modified from Goodreads:
For comic creators, animators, video game artists, and concept designers, being able to quickly draw the human figure in a variety of action-packed poses is a requirement. But what do you do if you don’t have models or photographic reference readily available? In Freehand Figure Drawing for Illustrators, artist and instructor David H. Ross shows how to block out actions and poses using a basic or advanced mannequin form. He illustrates basic poses (standing, running, jumping) to extreme motions (throwing punches, high kicking).


My Review:
Freehand Figure Drawing for Illustrators would be better titled "Mannequin Figures from Any Angle." The book mostly provided reference illustrations rather than detailed instructions on drawing a figure without any reference. If you don't have a live model or photo reference, you can use this book to look up a variety of poses from a wide variety of angles (front, back, 3/4, high, low, etc.).

The author provided many reference illustrations: mannequins and parts of mannequins from different angles and anatomy labels for the ear, hand, foot, a full skeleton, and major muscles. He described in step-by-step detail how to draw a head, hand, and foot. He also described in a generalized, "it'll be about here" way how different angles affect the apparent placement or size of various features.

The author assumed a certain amount of previous experience in drawing figures. For example: in his first section, he explained perspective and how to draw a box in perspective. He then gave a two-step lesson: (1) a rotated box viewed from low perspective (2) a fully rendered figure in that box. I was hoping for help in drawing a mannequin correctly into that perspective box or through using perspective lines. That help is never provided beyond a few, brief tips.

The mannequins were all super-hero types (skinny women or muscled men) and many of the references were from extreme angles or of exaggerated movements. From this, I assume the book is really targeted at superhero comic illustrators. I'm more interested in drawing normal humans in natural poses. I got some useful tips, but it's not really geared toward my interests.


If you've read this book, what do you think about it? I'd be honored if you wrote your own opinion of the book in the comments.


Excerpt: Read an excerpt using Google Preview.

Monday, August 10, 2015

Noah Webster by Catherine Reef

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Noah Webster:
Man of Many Words
by Catherine Reef


ISBN-13: 9780544129832
Hardback: 224 pages
Publisher: Clarion Books
Released: August 25, 2015

Source: ARC from the publisher through Amazon Vine.

Book Description from Amazon:
Noah Webster may be best remembered the enormous and ambitious task of writing his famous dictionary, but for him, this accomplishment was a means to an end. His true goal was to streamline the language spoken in our newly formed country so that it could be used as a force to bring people together and be a source of national pride. Though people laughed at his ideas, Webster never doubted himself. In the end, his so-called foolish notions achieved just what he had hoped.

Here, in the only account of Noah Webster for teens, the seasoned biographer Catherine Reef guides us through Webster's remarkable life, from boyhood on a Connecticut farm through the fight for American independence to his days as a writer and political activist who greatly influenced our Founding Fathers and the direction of the young United States.


My Review:
Noah Webster is a biography of Noah Webster for teenagers. The author told about Noah Webster's life, but she also explained enough about what was going on at the time that someone unfamiliar with it can understand how Webster's actions met a need and impacted the country.

Webster had political opinions and tried to influence people to support a strong Federal government through his writings. But he also loved words, and he wrote educational material (a speller, reader, etc.) before he wrote a dictionary. It was interesting to learn the political and social backdrop behind things we take for granted today, like how spellings differ between American and British English.

There were some illustrations of people, events, and books mentioned in the text. The book moved quickly and kept things interesting, which should appeal to teens. Overall, I'd recommend this interesting biography to those interested in history and words.


If you've read this book, what do you think about it? I'd be honored if you wrote your own opinion of the book in the comments.


Tuesday, August 4, 2015

The Elements of Landscape Oil Painting by Suzanne Brooker

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The Elements of Landscape Oil Painting
by Suzanne Brooker


ISBN-13: 9780804137553
Hardcover: 208 pages
Publisher: Watson-Guptill
Released: August 18, 2015

Source: ebook review copy from the publisher through Netgalley.com.

Book Description, Modified from Amazon:
Noted instructor/painter Suzanne Brooker presents the fundamentals necessary for mastering landscape oil painting, breaking landscapes down into component parts: sky, terrain, trees, and water. Each featured element builds off the previous, with additional lessons on the latest brushes, paints, and other tools used by artists. Key methods like observation, rendering, and color mixing are supported by demonstration paintings and samples from a variety of the best landscape oil painters of all time. Oil painters looking to break into landscape painting or enhance their work will find all the necessary ingredients for success.


My Review:
The Elements of Landscape Oil Painting is a "how-to" instruction book for oil painters who want to improve their landscape painting. The author broke the process down into the most basic steps, like closely looking at the subject, the different types of brush strokes used to make different textures, and choosing toned grounds that enhance the colors used over it. Since she went into detail before the demonstrations, I found them more useful than art books where it's more the artist vaguely explaining the colors and order that he used. Her demonstrations show how to put all the previous information together.

She started the book with the typical materials section. She assumed the reader has a certain familiarity with oil painting. For example, she did describe how to apply a toned ground but didn't provide a picture of the process. She gets basic with the landscape painting sections, and she devoted a chapter each to sky, terrain, trees, water, and then putting it all together. Within each section, she discussed observation, brush strokes, and colors, and then did demonstration paintings showing step-by-step how to put this information to work.

I felt like the author was both a good painter and good instructor. I'm still a beginner at landscape oil painting, and information in this book has helped me to improve my landscapes. Overall, I'd recommend this book to those--like me--who are trying to learn landscape oil painting without an instructor.


If you've read this book, what do you think about it? I'd be honored if you wrote your own opinion of the book in the comments.


Monday, July 27, 2015

Classic Human Anatomy in Motion by Valerie L. Winslow

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Classic Human Anatomy in Motion
by Valerie L. Winslow


ISBN-13: 9780770434144
Hardcover: 304 pages
Publisher: Watson-Guptill
Released: August 4, 2015

Source: ebook review copy from the publisher through NetGalley.

Book Description from Cover:
Fine-art instruction books do not usually focus on anatomy as it relates to movement, despite its great artistic significance. Written by a long-time expert on drawing and painting human anatomy, Classic Human Anatomy in Motion offers artists everything they need to realistically draw the human figure as it is affected by movement.

Written in a friendly style, the book is illustrated with hundreds of life drawing studies (both quick poses and long studies), along with charts and diagrams showing the various anatomical and structural components.

This comprehensive manual features five distinct sections, each focusing on a different aspect of the human figure: bones and joint movement, muscle groups, surface form and soft tissue characteristics, structure, and movement. Each chapter builds an artistic understanding of how motion transforms the human figure and can create a sense of expressive vibrancy in one's art.


My Review:
Classic Human Anatomy in Motion is an anatomy book for artists who draw, paint, or sculpt human nudes. Much of the information can be applied to clothed figures, too, which is how I intend to use it. I appreciated that the nude figures were treated respectfully (rather than shown in sexually suggestive poses) and really were anatomically accurate.

This book contained many high-quality illustrations. Many of the illustrations showed the bones and muscles of the human body as you'd find them in an anatomy book. The author also pointed out which features can be seen on the surface and to look for them as reference points when drawing. She described the motions that each joint can do and how muscles work, so you can more realistically render the human body when it's in motion. To quote the book description, "each chapter builds an artistic understanding of how motion transforms the human figure."

Rather than having the reader repeat her drawings as exercises, the author described how to draw the figure you are interested in (from models, everyday life, pictures, or video). She suggested warm-up exercises and ways to suggest an active (rather than passive) figure. She gave some advice about working from your imagination, but she generally assumed that you'll have some reference to draw from as you work.

I'm familiar with human anatomy from my college days. I was impressed with the quality of this work, and it was a good refresher course for me. It has helped me understand how to apply that knowledge to my art. Overall, I'd recommend this book to artists who want to improve their depictions of human figures.


If you've read this book, what do you think about it? I'd be honored if you wrote your own opinion of the book in the comments.


Excerpt: Read an excerpt using a Look Inside feature.

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

The Industrial Revolution by Laura L. Frader

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The Industrial Revolution:
A History in Documents
by Laura L. Frader


ISBN-13: 9780195128178
Hardcover: 158 pages
Publisher: Oxford University Press, USA
Released: April 6, 2006

Source: Bought used online.

Book Description from Goodreads:
The Industrial Revolution: A History in Documents uses a wide variety of primary source documents to chronicle a period of great international social and technological change that began in England in the 18th century.

Improvements were made to the steam engine that meant that many tasks that had been done by hand in the past could be mechanized. With locomotives and steamships, goods could now be transported very quickly and within a reasonably predictable time. Other changes included the use of iron and steel, invention of new machines that increased production (including the spinning jenny), development of the factory system, and important developments in transportation and communication (including the telegraph). This all led to agricultural improvements, a wider distribution of wealth, political changes reflecting the shift in economic power, and sweeping social changes.

This book relies on primary sources such as personal diaries, advice books, poems, business reports, letters, photos, and essays to tell the story behind this rapidly changing period and its far-reaching effects.


My Review:
The Industrial Revolution is a historical nonfiction book about the Industrial Revolution and is based on documents from the time period. These documents allow the reader to see different views of the changes at the time they were occurring.

The focus started out in England and, as time moved on, to America and parts of Europe. The book started by describing what life was like before the Industrial Revolution and then showed how things changed. It included excerpts from essays, diaries, books, business reports, letters, and even a few poems. It also included black and white photographs and illustrations from the time period. The editors provided some information before the text of each document to help the reader to understand the context of the document.

I found this book to be easy to understand and very informative. I'd highly recommend it to those who want to better understand the social changes--especially those in England--at the time of the Industrial Revolution.


If you've read this book, what do you think about it? I'd be honored if you wrote your own opinion of the book in the comments.


Monday, June 29, 2015

The Jane Austen Handbook by Margaret C. Sullivan

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The Jane Austen Handbook
by Margaret C. Sullivan


ISBN-13: 9781594741715
Hardcover: 224 pages
Publisher: Quirk Books
Released: May 1, 2007

Source: Bought through Half.com.

Book Description, Modified from Back Cover:
Every young lady dreams of a life spent exchanging witty asides with a dashing Mr. Darcy, but how should you let him know your intentions? This charming guide provides step-by-step instructions for proper comportment in the early nineteenth century. You'll discover:

How to behave at your first ball.
How to ride sidesaddle.
How to decline an unwanted marriage proposal.
How to improve your estate.
How to throw a dinner party.

--and much more! It offers readers a glimpse into day-to-day life in Jane Austen's time and includes information on the English class system, currency, dress, and the nuances of graceful living.


My Review:
The Jane Austen Handbook described manners and aspects of daily life in Regency England, which is the time period of Jane Austen's novels. Some of it is information that you pick up just from reading her novels or watching the movies. However, there was a fair amount of other information that helps to fill out what life was like for the landed folk in England.

It included information like what the different servants do, correct behavior at a ball, how children were educated, how much someone's income was worth in modern terms, and so on. She included things that will help you to better understand the novels and things you simply might be curious about.

The author didn't go into great detail, but she covered a wide variety of subjects. The light tone makes it very readable and enjoyable. Overall, I'd recommend this book to fans of Jane Austen who want to know a little more about what life was like in the Regency Period.


If you've read this book, what do you think about it? I'd be honored if you wrote your own opinion of the book in the comments.


Excerpt: Read an excerpt using Google Preview.

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Victorian People in Life and Literature by Gillian Avery

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Victorian People in Life and Literature
by Gillian Avery


ISBN-13: 9780030666551
Hardcover: 255 pages
Publisher: Holt, Rinehart and Winston, Inc.
Released: 1970

Source: Borrowed from my local library.

Book Description:
Gillian Avery describes what life was like for the different social classes, what visitors thought of Victorian society, and rural and city/industrial life. She comments on some literature (novels and nonfiction sources) that accurately portray life and on some that didn't. Chapter headings: Victorian times, French and American Visitors, The Aristocracy, Society Life, Squire and Cottager, The Middle Classes, The Church, Cities and Industry, Life in Mean Streets, Poverty and Destitution, and Criminals. Illustrated from contemporary sources.


My Review:
Victorian People in Life and Literature explores life in England during Victorian times. It started with the rich and worked on down to the very poor, including information on workhouses and the prison system. It looked at farm life and at life in industrial cities. It quoted comments by foreign visitors, magazines of the time period, and bits from novels that accurately portray the times.

The illustrations were cartoons and line drawings taken from magazines from that time period. The book was very readable and interesting, and it came across as well-researched. Overall, I'd recommend this book to those interested in learning more about what the living conditions and social attitudes were like during this time period.


If you've read this book, what do you think about it? I'd be honored if you wrote your own opinion of the book in the comments.